Thursday, October 22, 2020
News Honda Drops Manual From Civic Sedan in US: Death of Honda Manuals?

Honda Drops Manual From Civic Sedan in US: Death of Honda Manuals?

Honda America drops Civic manual sedans for 2021

  • Honda US only offers Type-R, top-spec hatchback manuals

  • Automaker once offered even stick-shift crossovers


Sad news today from Honda USA’s announcement of pricing for the 2021 Honda Civic sedan. Take a close look at the model listings and you’ll see one thing missing. 6MT isn’t there. For 2021, the Civic sedan is going CVT only, and for many buyers that’s a tragedy. Ok, tragedy is a bit extreme, but it is a big deal for the save the manuals movement.

The change leaves Honda, which just a few years ago offered more manual transmissions than almost anyone, with, well, essentially none. Not long ago, you could get a three-pedal Fit, Accord, Civic, a CR-Z, an HR-V, even a CR-V, for a time. The Civic has for decades been the best-selling car in Canada and has always offered a manual option.

With this latest Civic announcement, assuming that the manual will be discontinued from the sedan in Canada as well, leaves only a few variants of the hatchback, including the low-volume Type-R, with a choice of manual transmission.

Does that mean the manual is dead at Honda? It sounds like it does, at least when it comes to volume production models. What does that mean for the next generation of the Civic, expected next year? We’re not sure. It would seem a shame to make the Si and Type-R equipped with rubbery CVT automatics, but for Honda to make such a low volume offering seems less likely than before.

It’s a strange move when you look at the competition. Toyota has just doubled down, heavily promoting the Corolla and Corolla hatch with a rev-matching six-speed. Even with that box, and despite Toyota’s best marketing efforts, the Civic is a more enjoyable car to drive and so seems better suited to a stick.

As the owner of a stick-shift Civic, this is disappointing. It’s my second Civic, and the first had a CVT. While the CVT has improved greatly since that first car, it’s still not up to the smoothness of a good automatic gearbox. Honda doesn’t reveal the share of stick-shifts they were selling, but for buyers wanting their next Honda with three pedals, it seems likely they would move to a competitor rather than spend a premium for a CVT. That’s certainly the way I would go.

On the other hand, Honda is a market leader in this segment, and if even they have given up the manual, this could be the last blow for the save the manuals movement. Unless the makers of the few remaining small cars want to chase that shrinking segment (we’re looking at you, Hyundai and Mazda), the incentive for other automakers to carry on gets smaller by the year.

We’ll now wait, worried, to see what Honda Canada has to say.

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